A vivid and delicate WWI novel set in a German hospital, where soldiers with throat injuries known as `the Whistlers' recover from their injuries.
The Whistlers' Room is the surprisingly gentle, sensitive story of a section in a German hospital where three soldiers try to recover from battle injuries. They are known as the Whistlers, as all were shot in the throat and their breathing results in a sound "like the squeaking of mice". The author vividly captures the strong young men the soldiers used to be and the battered, wounded people they have become. Pointner, whose obstinacy in holding onto an English sniper's cap means he is mistaken for the enemy, is the worst injured of the trio. Kollin continually dreams that he is cured, and for a brief, heart-breaking moment his breathing appears to be free when he awakes. The precarious balance of life in the hospital shifts when Harry, an English prisoner of war, becomes another whistler. His initial reception by the other patients, and his eventual acceptance into their group, reminds us of what must be so blatant day-in day-out in a hospital: men are all the same regardless of the country they fight for. The story progresses through a simple series of vignettes which are delicately presented without demanding empathy or flinging the reader into a maelstrom of emotion. It is all the more rare, precious and powerful as a result.